The nation’s environment will continue to worsen if environmental groups and the government cannot find a middle ground between economic development and environmental protection, photographer and film director Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) said yesterday.
The director of the box-office smash Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above (看見台灣), which has made more than NT$200 million (US$6.59 million) since it premiered on Nov. 1 last year, made the remark at a public forum at National Taiwan University.
Many of the beautiful full-screen scenes in the documentary were the result of careful framing, because the land has really been fractured and damaged, he said, adding that up to 90 percent of the western coastline is now covered in concrete and more than 300 fishing ports around the nation have damaged the natural scenery.
After his aerial photographs and film clips triggered a local government to fine or shut down companies over illegal wastewater discharges, one company owner complained that it was unreasonable to close his company just for polluting a river, Chi said. This shows that some people still lack environmental consciousness, he said.
Showing a photograph of tea bushes on steep mountain slopes, Chi said the overuse of land has led to erosion and landslides when typhoons bring heavy rain to mountainous areas, and the government then has to rush to fix roads in these areas after disasters.
“They never stop planting, even if the land erodes, because they can make money. I understand that the people who build hotels or grow crops on top of mountains do so to make a living. However, I think the government bears much of the responsibility for the problems because it ignored these issues for so long,” he said.
Although his documentary may have caused problems for some people, if no one pays attention to the overuse of mountain land, then natural disasters could take a heavier toll on these people’s lives and property, he said.
“I think it is very common in Taiwan for everyone to stick to their own opinions, be unwilling to communicate rationally and unable to agree on a consensus … we are often arguing between 1 and 0, unable to compromise and accept 0.5 as the middle ground,” Chi said.
“When issues are ignored because civic groups and the government cannot reach a consensus, the end results may actually be damaging to both sides,” he said.
Several environmental groups criticized Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above for not taking a more critical viewpoint and showing some of the even more serious environmental problems facing the nation, but it was important to make the film acceptable to a wider public, so that the message of loving Taiwan’s environment could spread to more people, he said.
National Taiwan University geology professor Hongey Chen (陳宏宇) said that from his field investigations after major natural disasters over the years, the nation’s land is already shattered and broken, with villages in mountainous areas often faced with “floods in front, collapsed slopes in back and landslides next to them.”